Aims: To perform an automated functional assessment of retinal and choroidal microvasculature in eyes with low-grade diabetic retinopathy (DR) using optical coherence tomography angiography (OCT-A) and to identify potential perfusion changes in case of early vascular damage. Methods: This is an observational, case–control study of consecutive diabetic patients with level 20 DR severity scale score and age-matched healthy subjects. A prototypal OCT-angiography was used to obtain the OCT-angiograms of the superficial capillary plexus (SCP), deep capillary plexus (DCP) and choriocapillaris (CC) layer. A validated automated microstructural analysis provided data on SCP, DCP and CC vascular perfusion density (VPD). A comparative assessment between different vascular layers and different groups was performed. Results: Twenty-nine diabetic patients (7 females, 24%) and 20 healthy controls were enrolled. VPD values were significantly lower in the DCP (25.1% vs. 26.5%; p = 0.04) and CC (71.2% vs. 86.6%; p = 0.0001) of diabetic patients compared with controls. A statistically significant negative linear correlation was reported between CC VPD and DCP VPD in diabetic patients; at the reverse, a positive linear correlation between the same parameters was noticed in controls. Conclusion: Retinal and choroidal vascular networks, although distinct entities, seem functionally interconnected: varying the degree of perfusion may be a mutual compensatory mechanism in response to an ischemic injury.
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